I am thinking about what to write for a paper, the opening section of the paper is a brief explanation of my faith tradition and I am having great difficulty knowing what to write.
I am part of the Religious Society of Friends, but saying that I am a Quaker does not give the full sense of how I approach faith. I sometimes describe myself as a non-conformist among non conformists, which is more of a joke than a real description. If I describe myself as a member of EFI-MAYM, even that description is imperfect. While I am influenced by my community, I am not defined by them, and part of how I relate to my community is where I disagree with them.
For me, the idea of the Religious society of Friends is that we are a Religious society. Friends do not, and should not exist independently from wider Christianity. We must dialog with others — our unique sub-tradition should bring value to the greater whole. My personal position is what I will call “Traditional Christianity“. I value the practice of general councils, and feel that the group has authority which the individual does not. I also recognize tradition as a consensus of a period of history. I accept the definitions of Christian faith which were approved in councils based on the authority those of Councils. I do not accept that a group of people such as a council, or a Yearly Meeting is infallible, or that tradition is unchangeable, instead, I feel that we share in the creation of tradition. One might say, I see a core idea of Quakerism being cumulative revelation. We are part of the cumulative work of theology. History, I, and those around me struggle to understand our relationship with God in context to God’s relationship with humanity.
I often have difficulty getting along with evangelical Friends for being too deep in my Quaker tradition — for my love of Robert Barclay, John Woolman, and William Penn. I have greater difficulty, because I am too deep in Christian Tradition, (many Evangelicals distrust wider Christianity) and I am filled with love for early Christianity. When I see Penn calling Quakerism “Primitive Christianity Revived — I cannot know what this might mean without reading those primitive Christians… so I read what are called Apostolic Fathers… and oddly enough, I find that Barclay is closest to the the universalism which worries the evangelical party when he is quoting the Church Fathers. Exploring my faith tradition, I find myself in conversation with American Evangelical Christianity, ancient Christianity, Roman Catholicism, John Calvin and 1690’s Quakerism. I experience Quakerism as a call to critically examine the whole of Christian Tradition and an invitation to discover and to live out its implications.
My faith tradition is was best lived out in the period when I lived in Wichita Kansas and did not work on Sunday. At 8:00 AM, I would attend traditional worship at Northridge Friends — at 9:30, I would be at Matins at St. Mary’s Antioch Orthodox Church. I found in both placed that Heaven touched Earth, and Christ was present in a real way. I am a member of the Religious society of Friends — but I confess my faith with the universal Church.
Now for the real problem: How do I state this in an academic paper?